Newsletter No 39
BY THE TIME I GOT TO PHOENIX...
My 2001 Toyota Prius was waiting!
summer (for a variety of reasons, as you will see), I decided
that I should buy a hybrid (gas and electric) family size
car. After much research and soul searching, I decided to try to
find a Toyota Prius.
Many of you who remember my disparaging remarks about hybrids just a few years ago may wonder why the change.
first, I felt that hybrid cars surely must be combining the worst
elements of electric and gas systems and creating an overly complex
Instead, I now believe that the two systems have
been put together to build on each other’s strengths and overcome their
weaknesses. (Sort of like a really good relationship...)
For example, there really isn’t a transmission on the car. We all
know how expensive they can be to fix. Instead, the car uses the
electric motors to control the speed of the engine and the car.
The result is vastly fewer moving parts and therefore greater
reliability and longevity. By the way, locomotives have been
doing something similar since the steam engine whistles were still
So why did I have to go to Phoenix to buy a used hybrid car?
looked around town for a used one, and could locate just one
(available at a premium price). Because hybrid cars are so
popular out west, I was able to find a car rental agency in
Phoenix with a large supply of used Prius’s ( or is it Prii?) for
sale. I actually saved money by flying out to Phoenix, buying a
car, and driving it back! A long test drive, eh? Actually,
it was good to really get to know the car.
The Prius has been
averaging 51 mpg (combination city/highway driving). It’s dropped
down to 49 mpg with the onset of cold weather. And speaking of
cold weather, one of the really nice features about this car is the
electric heater! Instant heat on a cold morning! Just like
my electric truck. No more waiting for the engine to warm up.
That’s a nice extra feature to have in this climate.
speaking of mileage, it is amazing to watch the fuel economy skyrocket
when you are stuck in freeway traffic—just the opposite of what you
expect. On a recent trip to the grandparents during the end of
rush hour, our average fuel economy went over sixty mpg for the trip
because we got STUCK IN TRAFFIC! Weird.
tremendous thought to making this car look, feel, and act like
the cars we are accustomed to. At first I thought that to be an
odd approach, but it makes good sense if you want to sell loads of cars
to wary consumers. And for you lead foot drivers, the car is very
peppy. With one gas motor and two electric motors to draw
upon, it will go like a scolded troll.
Hybrids are here
to stay. Forget about hydrogen cars for now; they are years away from
production. Hybrids are here now, and if you want to lessen your
personal dependence on Middle Eastern oil, then think about a hybrid.
THERE’S A NEW KID IN TOWN
those of you who haven’t been in lately, you will notice a few changes
in the office. Kris and I added a baby boy to our household last
summer. Joey was born August 18th, and has been coming into work
quite often as Kris is getting back into the work routine.
has been service manager since mid-July. She and Kris are trading
the service manager & office manager jobs back and forth as the
day’s needs warrant.
Meanwhile, I have gone back into the shop
and am working primarily as a tech. If I happen to yawn in the
middle of a conversation, it is not from inattention or boredom -- just
good old-fashioned sleep deprivation!
is some good news for you. In August, a new federal law went into
effect, requiring car manufacturers to make certain tools and
information readily available to the independent repair market.
They had been attempting to keep the tools and information
proprietary. If the law hadn’t been passed, it may have spelled
the beginning of the end for the independent repair industry; and you,
the consumer, would have been forced to take your car to a dealer for
most types of repairs.
For example, Saab has a diagnostic tool
known as the Tech 2. Without the Tech 2, a technician can’t
access codes from the computer or reset service lights on most modern
Saabs. In the past, Saab has not allowed their dealers to sell
these tools to independent shops. We know, because we tried to
buy one from our Saab dealer. We were, however, able to procure
one from a non-dealer source, but it was a huge hassle.
great thing about the new regulation is that the information and tools
are now easily available! Or at least that’s the theory.
And you will continue to have choices with your auto repair.
ALL KEYED UP & NOWHERE TO GO
you know what a transponder is? Or a “keyless entry”
system? These are all components of increasingly complex
anti-theft devices installed in your car.
A transponder is a
little computer chip present in some late-model car keys. If you
try to start the car with a duplicate key (meaning one without the
computer chip), you won’t have any luck. The key will go in
and turn, but nothing will happen.
This is good for you, because
it cuts down on the chance of your car being stolen. It’s bad for
you, if you don’t have another transponder key tucked away somewhere!
about the problem of locking your keys in the car accidentally?
Don’t throw away your magnetic hide- a-key box. With increasingly
complex interactions between doors closing, buttons locking and
timers doing things automatically, more people are finding themselves
locked out of their cars. Ouch... It still pays to carry a
spare key on the car somewhere. If it is a simple copy (without a
transponder) you will be able to open the door with it, but someone
finding it would not be able to drive away with the car. Nice!
brings up another example of the law of unintended consequences.
Because cars are getting so hard to steal, carjackings are becoming a
To address this, on some cars, in addition to
having the transponder key, they’re making a transponder card (like a
charge card) that you carry near you when you start the car. This
is another anti-theft device. Say your car has been carjacked
(unlikely, but who knows). The carjacker orders you out of the
car at some point. You (and the transponder card in your shirt
pocket) run. Once the transponder card gets out of range of the
car, the car won’t run. (Of course, if the carjackers have taken
your wallet or your purse with the transponder card inside, you’re out
Gone are the days when you could stop by the
hardware store, or call the dealer and order another key by using
either your key code or the VIN (vehicle identification number).
With the new Prius, we had to take the car to the Toyota dealer in
order to have a second computerized key made. They “cut” the key
and then programmed the computer to recognize it.
On some cars,
if you lose all your remotes and your key, you have to have the whole
computer replaced just to get a new key. The cost of having this
done can run into the thousands-- shocking.
That old adage is even wiser than ever: always have more than one car key.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES?
We’ve been fielding many inquiries lately regarding the advisability of owning an “old” car.
idea of getting 200,000 miles from a modern car is not
far-fetched, in the right circumstances. Just because your car is
“old” (80’s or very early 90’s), don’t assume that it’s a candidate for
the scrap yard!
In our climate, a car is most likely to rust out
long before the engine wears out. Cosmetic rust (the kind you see
on the car itself) is mostly nuisance rust (until, of course, your door
rusts and falls off). Rust becomes a serious safety
concern, obviously, when it gets in the frame of the car.
have an aging car and are trying to decide whether or not to reinvest
in it, give us a call. We can do a one-hour inspection. We
go over the car bumper-to-bumper, and provide you with a list of
upcoming issues. We will prioritize the issues for you and also give
you estimates. If we think a car is not worth reinvesting in, we
will tell you.
And if you have a new car, we can do your
maintenance. You don’t have to take it to the dealer (the only
thing the dealer needs to do is any work under warranty or
recall). Be sure to bring in your maintenance booklet, so
we can fill it out. With your new car, you want to be absolutely
sure to do at least the minimum required. Dealers seem to look
for reasons to not honor warranties, and neglecting the minimum
required maintenance is one of the first things they pounce on.
and no newsletter would be complete without my urging you to change
your oil every 3000 miles, no matter what your warranty booklet
says. The shorter interval is cheap insurance for engine problems
down the road (after the car is out of
Give us a call
if you have any questions about maintenance on your newer car. We
had a Honda Odyssey in here last week for maintenance. It had
about 65,000 miles on it. Honda’s maintenance list calls for the
first spark plug replacement at 105,000 miles! Chances are
very very high that plugs with 105,000 miles on them will be stuck in
the cylinder head. Man, that’s gonna be an expensive spark change
when the cylinder heads need to come off.
As always, we are here to help you make the best decisions for your car.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Stop in to visit us, or if you have any questions about your cars, call us at 651-635-0395.